Category Archives: 2005 Commissioner Election



5:00 P.M. REGULAR BOARD MEETING. Committee meetings to follow. The meetings will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.

5:30 P.M. OPEN TIME. Speakers need to sign up before 3:00 p.m. the day of the meeting.

This meeting is the last meeting that David Fisher will be attending as Superintendent. His four month stint as interim superintendent ends on October 31. We are grateful that he accepted the invitation to come to Minneapolis to fill this position.

This meeting is a meeting with many significant agenda items. The most important item on the agenda is the vote to approve the employment agreement with Jayne Miller, who–at the last meeting–was selected by a unanimous vote to be the new MPRB Superintendent.

Some highlights of the meetings that will be voted on :

The I-35 Bridge Memorial.
The concession agreement with Bread & Pickle at Lake Harriet.
The reconvening of the CAC for the Wirth Beach Project III.
The non-appointed CACs for two playgrounds at Lake Harriet.

There will be a presentation of the Superintendent’s 2011 Recommended Budget. This is a report item and will not be voted on at this time.

The following is the link to the complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners’ meeting of Wednesday, October 20:

MPRB meetings are broadcast live from 5-9 p.m. on the City of Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast cable and online at

The regular meetings are rebroadcast on Channel 79 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Webcasts for the recent two months are posted two to five business days after the meeting and are available for viewing under “Webcast Archives” at

The Park Board’s website is

Arlene Fried, Co-founder of Park Watch

City Pages: Pro-development faction on park board got big 11th-hour financial help

In this recent article by Britt Robson at the City Pages, we learn that after a large amount of developer financed help funneled through a front group PAC, there was a nice quid pro quo for at least one contributor.

» A Little Help from Their Friends

Why did a developer and a billionaire venture capitalist give $10,000 each to a Minneapolis Park Board PAC?

by Britt Robson
November 23, 2005

Leading up to the city elections held earlier this month, the battles between old-guard DFLers and the so-called reform faction on the Minneapolis Park Board often grew so heated and so personal that it was easy to forget that there were differences of policy as well as of personality underlying the fight.

But the differences may have been underscored during the run-up to the election by an extraordinary show of generosity on the part of two prominent political donors: Campaign records made public just before the election showed that developer Paul Klodt and venture capitalist Vance Opperman had donated $10,000 each to an old-guard-friendly organization called People for Independent Parks [PIP], which in turn poured a lot of resources into closely contested races in Districts Five and Six. In the end, old-schoolers Bob Fine and Carol Kummer won those two seats, helping to keep would-be board reformers on the short end of a 5-4 board split.

What prompted such a show of largesse in a race where the contribution limit on political donations to individual candidates runs from $300 a year (for district seats) to $500 a year (for at-large seats)? «

» Because PIP was formed so late in the campaign, the PAC did not need to file a campaign finance report until just before the recent election, covering contributions through October 21. That report reveals that more than 80 percent of the $23,600 raised by the group came from Klodt and Opperman.

Though precise expenditure figures were not available, PIP seemed to deploy much of that sum on behalf of park board incumbent Carol Kummer, who was generally regarded as the most vulnerable of the old guard seeking reelection. On October 5, Klodt contributed $10,000 to PIP. During the last two weeks of the campaign, no fewer than four PIP-sponsored pieces of literature blanketed the District Five area where Kummer was running. On November 8, Kummer defeated Jason Stone by a mere 300 votes, out of 12,796 total ballots cast.

Just six days later, on November 14, a proposed 233-unit housing project to be developed by Klodt, known as Hiawatha Flats, was brought before the Minneapolis Planning Commission. Although the commission agreed to rezone the area, located at East 43rd Street and Snelling Avenue in south Minneapolis, to accommodate the development, they denied the issuance of a conditional-use permit that would have moved the project forward. The vote to stymie Klodt’s Hiawatha Flats was 6-1. The lone vote in favor of Klodt was cast by the park board representative to the planning commission — Carol Kummer. «

Read the entire article here.

Local Bloggers Support Reform

The New Patriot writes “The Minneapolis Observer also saw a big win for Rybak, and additionally found that the park board reform movement came up short. The reformers have three seats on the board, with a swing vote from Tom Nordyke. The ossified park board incumbents all survived. Disappointing.

David Polaschek over at Dave’s Picks writes “Is Minneapolis Park Board heading to a more harmonious future? Somehow I suspect not.” He also says “we deserve a better Park Board.”

The Moderate Republican writes “If you live in Minneapolis, voting in a new park board is reason enough to show up at the polls on November 8th.”

Star Tribune Editorial: Election Results

» Both mayors should enjoy harmonic relations with their respective city councils. Coleman’s disposition and experience as a former council member should help. Minneapolis’ newly elected body is, if anything, friendlier to Rybak than the previous model.

Labor — especially the police union — took a big hit when Cam Gordon, Betsy Hodges and Elizabeth Glidden (each with ties to Rybak) won open City Council seats. The city’s old-style, insider politics seems in full retreat.

The deeply divided Park and Recreation Board may pose an exception. Reformers fell 300 votes short of taking control when Carol Kummer narrowly retained her District 5 seat. Whether the board’s longtime combatants resume their old feuds depends on what might have been learned from a turbulent campaign.

Our hope is for a fresh start. «

Read entire editorial at Star Tribune website.

VOTE – General Election – Tuesday, 11/8

Tuesday, November 8, General Election

Polls are open 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM

Further election information is available at the Minneapolis city web site.

Park Watch enthusiastically endorses the following candidates who are capable of working together to identify and find solutions for the Park Board’s existing problems:

  • District 1: LuAnn Wilcox
  • District 2: no endorsement
  • District 3: Scott Vreeland
  • District 4: Tracy Nordstrom
  • District 5: Jason Stone
  • District 6: Jim Bernstein
  • At-large (city wide): Rochelle Berry Graves
  • At-large (city wide): Tom Nordyke
  • At-large (city wide): Annie Young

On November 8, Vote for a Better Park Board!

Next Tuesday, remember to vote. Make your voice heard to demand the better Park Board we deserve.

Park Watch enthusiastically endorses the following candidates who are capable of working together to identify and find solutions for the Park Board’s existing problems:

  • District 1: LuAnn Wilcox
  • District 2: no endorsement
  • District 3: Scott Vreeland
  • District 4: Tracy Nordstrom
  • District 5: Jason Stone
  • District 6: Jim Bernstein
  • At-large (city wide): Rochelle Berry Graves
  • At-large (city wide): Tom Nordyke
  • At-large (city wide): Annie Young

These candidates are also endorsed by the the Sierra Club.

Find your Park District using this official Adobe Acrobat PDF map and your polling place at this link.

Park Watch’s endorsement announcement can be found here.

More campaign-related information.

City Pages: Park and Wreck

In an entertaining article subtitled “This election season, the dysfunctional Minneapolis Park Board is ripe for reform,” Britt Robson reports on the higher profile the Park Board has in this election:

“ the park board has been a poster child for unchecked government. ”

» Despite these impressive credentials, the park board has traditionally kept a relatively low political profile throughout its long history. In the past few years, however, a series of embarrassing incidents and controversies has contributed to the impression that the MPRB has been operating like a private club, rife with cronyism and a lack of public accountability. More than that, there have been controversial expenditures by the board over the years, and an unseemly rift on the board itself. Now, on the verge of an election in which all nine seats–six district positions, and three at-large–on the park board commission are up for grabs, this typically sleepy corner of city government has become a highly scrutinized hotbed of political activity.

The defining event of the recent park board power struggle, one that birthed a cadre of reform-minded board critics, happened in December 2003, when the board hired its current superintendent, Jon Gurban. Not only hadn’t Gurban participated in the interview and screening process, but his candidacy was unknown to the public–and four of the nine commissioners–until just hours before the meeting to elect him. At the time, he was executive director of the Minnesota Recreation and Park Association, a state entity, and a former high school classmate of then-park board president Bob Fine.

In short, the park board has been a poster child for unchecked government. The uproar over Gurban’s hiring motivated a group of citizens to form Minneapolis Park Watch, which set up a website and began issuing detailed minutes and critiques of subsequent park board meetings. Among many complaints, Park Watch members charged that the minutes of board meetings were too vague, and that public feedback was discouraged because of scant prior notice of meeting topics and too little time set aside by the board to hear citizen concerns. «

Read the entire article on the City Pages website.

Star Tribune Park Board Endorsements

The Star Tribune gets it half wrong, half right with their endorsements, endorsing Jason Stone, Tracy Nordstrom, Scott Vreeland and Tom Nordyke. While arguing for reform, the editorial strangely endorses a few of the very commissioners causing the problems the Star Tribune criticizes.

“Much of the blame for the board’s reputation for arrogance, inside maneuvers and factionalism falls to Bob Fine, the former president.”

» The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board needs a good housecleaning. …

[I]n general, the reformers are right. The board has deteriorated into petty factions. Personalities clash. Priorities are at odds. Too often the board’s process has been abused. …

The majority has operated as a cozy, insider group that bypasses citizen involvement to get what it wants. The bizarre manner in which it hired Jon Gurban, a man who had neither applied for nor interviewed for the superintendent’s job, is one example. Another is the way it tried to push through the DeLaSalle football field. We happen to think the high school (under strict conditions) should get its field and that Gurban is doing a reasonable job. But process matters. Power plays and shortcuts only serve to invite the widespread public distrust that the board now suffers. …

A fresh start is badly needed. The old politics of arrogance, expedience and gathering only the votes needed to ram something through is giving way to a new consensus style that invites exhaustive input from citizens. That requires patience, humility and respect for an often ill-informed public.

Not only must the board be more transparent, it needs a sharper vision and better planning. It needs financial creativity, partnerships and collaboration. It needs greater understanding that parks aren’t just for recreation and environmental protection but for enchantment — the generous use of beauty to lift the urban spirit. Locating a new park headquarters in a concrete machine shed with a big front parking lot violates everything about that principle. Theodore Wirth would have wept. «

Read the complete editorial at the Star Tribune website.

Star Tribune Letters: To halt land rush on urban parks, vote Nov. 8

» Last month’s Star Tribune series on skyrocketing prices for property in northern Minnesota underscored how highly people value the chance to live near natural resources and places for passive and active recreation. If such properties are coveted in remote areas, imagine what public parks mean to urban dwellers who, unlike our friends in rural and suburban area, have yards the size of postage stamps if we have them at all.

With 6,400 acres containing lakes, creeks, a riverfront, playing fields, open spaces and 48 recreation centers, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is the largest landowner in the city. The nine-person, elected Park Board controls an annual budget which includes nearly $50 million in taxpayer money.

Because of this substantial budget, the stewardship and responsibility required of those elected to the Park Board is daunting. Park commissioners must be vigilant in protecting our much-needed open spaces and picturesque shorelines from the grasping hands of those seeking to create profit for the few. They must exercise caution when pondering long-term contracts for spaces paid for by the public. They must practice diligent oversight to ensure we are getting the best return on our tax dollar. And they must balance the public’s diverse needs for sound environmental policy and recreational opportunities without overly burdening city taxpayers already reeling from cost of living increases.

A current majority on the Minneapolis Park Bard has not lived up to those standards. These commissioners have squandered funds on unwise, overpriced capital projects that have little or no public benefit, while threatening basic necessities like restrooms, summer park supervision and wading pools. From the lakes to the riverfront they have tried to remove precious park resources from public control or access.

The land rush on our urban parks has been held in check, but if the board’s narrow five-member majority gains a sixth vote in November’s general election, our parkland could be auctioned to the highest bidder (or to the best-connected private party in a no-bid process). And all done in the name of preserving the park system, following the Orwellian logic that to save our parks we must divest ourselves of them.

Park Watch ( is an ad hoc group that monitors the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and tries to shine a light on its actions and policies — a laborious but necessary function with a public body that has ceased to uphold such basic elements of governance as recording written meeting minutes. The group formed after a five-person majority faction of Minneapolis park commissioners voted in December 2003 to hire a superintendent who was not a candidate for the position and had not even interviewed. Park Watch supports good government and an independent park board.

Please remember to vote on Nov. 8 and elect a district park commissioner and three at-large, citywide park commissioners who will be accountable, govern in a transparent manner, reverse the course on privatizing park resources and provide the stewardship to keep our waters clean, our recreations centers open, our open spaces public and basic services maintained.


Read original letter on Star Tribune website at this link.

Star Tribune Commentary: Charles Birnbaum: Park Board isn't staying true to Wirth's vision

In an October 28 Star Tribune Commentary, Charles A. Birnbaum, founder and president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington, D.C., writes about how the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is considering privatizing, selling off and even giving away precious Minneapolis public park property:

» From Atlanta to Seattle, our nation’s legacy of urban parks are under siege from a variety of threats — expansions by neighboring institutions, new parking lots and new “destination features.” Minneapolis is no exception.

In the age of video games and attention deficit disorder, “open space” has become a dirty word. Parks are seen as a void that must be filled, “programmed” to amuse all comers.

Who decided that strolling under a canopy of trees is not a sufficient experience in its own right? Have we stopped valuing the humanizing scale and tactile marvels of nature? Do we still appreciate our history and public gardens?

This national trend to clutter park grounds with activity-oriented “focal points” is lamentable and perplexing because park users themselves are not demanding change. According to surveys conducted over the past two decades, the majority of Americans visit parks specifically for passive, reflective experiences.

Within an emotional and politically charged atmosphere, small but vocal groups are taking control of the public debate to advance their own narrow agendas — resulting in ill-conceived park redesigns. Democratic spaces are being privatized with partial closing of parks for special events, construction of additions, long-term leases to special interests and private concessions — changing the character of the landscape irrevocably.

These formulaic alterations to our parks have their own needs for long-term maintenance with more parking and more pavement. Strip away the historic. Make way for special interests (this is often the real objective). Today “green” too seldom means a generous sweep of trees and lawn with the songs of birds, and too often means dollars and the ching-ching-ching of cash registers.

Minneapolis is a city blessed with one of the nation’s premier systems of parks and boulevards, yet based on current proposals that I saw on my trip to the Twin Cities last week, it appears that elected park commissioners and their appointed superintendents are today considering privatizing, selling off and even giving away precious public park property. «

Read the rest of the commentary on the Star Tribune web site.